Former Major League Baseball Player Indicted Over Illegal Betting

November 16, 2022
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A former Major League Baseball all-star faces up to five years in prison after agreeing to plead guilty to lying to federal agents about making nearly 900 bets on sporting events in 2019 with an illegal bookmaker in Los Angeles.

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A former Major League Baseball all-star faces up to five years in prison after agreeing to plead guilty to lying to federal agents about making nearly 900 bets on sporting events in 2019 with an illegal bookmaker in Los Angeles.

Yasiel Puig, 31, who now plays in South Korea, placed 899 bets with Wayne Nix, a former minor league pitcher who agreed to plead guilty on March 31 to operating an illegal gambling ring, including a website in Costa Rica.

Puig was an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2013 to 2018 before playing for the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians in his last season in the major leagues in 2019.

“When given the opportunity to be truthful about his involvement with Nix’s gambling businesses, Mr. Puig chose not to,” said Tyler Hatcher, a special agent in charge of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation in Los Angeles.

“Mr. Puig’s lies hindered the legal and procedural tasks of the investigators and prosecutors,” Hatcher said in a statement released by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Puig’s plea agreement is the latest scandal involving a pro athlete and sports betting, following the National Football League’s (NFL) suspension on March 7 of then-Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley for at least the entire 2022 season for betting on NFL games in 2021.

Ridley forfeited his 2022 salary of $11.1m and was traded on November 1 by the Falcons to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In November 2019, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also suspended Arizona Cardinals defensive back Josh Shaw at least through the 2020 season for betting on a three-team parlay against his own team on November 10, 2019.

Although reinstated in March 2021, Shaw has not played for an NFL team since his suspension.

Puig’s guilty plea also comes on the heels of the overwhelming rejection of two sports-betting propositions by voters in California on November 8.

The American Gaming Association (AGA), the industry’s chief lobbying operation in Washington, D.C., is not wringing its hands about recent events in California.

“We expect the strong appetite for legal, regulated sports betting to continue into 2023 and bringing American consumers into the protections of the legal market remains a priority of the AGA,” said AGA senior vice president of communications Casey Clark.

A top priority for the AGA is eliminating illegal offshore gambling operations, and AGA president and CEO Bill Miller went so far as to tell U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in an April 13 letter that the Justice Department must get tougher on illegal gambling operations.

The U.S. Department of Justice seems to be more focused on investigating illegal offshore gambling operations than potentially unlawful gambling occurring across state lines, according to Marc Edelman, a law professor at Baruch College, City University in New York City.

“There are many websites in the United States describing themselves as fantasy sports operators but actually operating as against-the-house prop betting,” Edelman told VIXIO GamblingCompliance on Tuesday (November 15).

Clark, the AGA’s senior vice president, acknowledged illegal sports betting is prevalent across the country, and “posing a significant threat to consumers.”

“Whether offshore or on U.S. soil, law enforcement and policymakers must prioritize protecting bettors, communities and the integrity of competitions by cracking down on illegal operators,” Clark said.

“Only in the regulated, legal market can you find critical safeguards like responsible gaming tools, consumer protections and integrity monitoring.”

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